My two allowed questions at tonight’s Oldham Council meeting -12 September – Green Belt (GMSF) and Trams

Q1 Leader Question – Greater Manchester Spatial Framework – decision for Oldham Borough should be taken by all Councillors

 Mr Mayor, my first question tonight relates to a future decision which will be one of the most momentous in its impact on many of our Borough’s residents over the next two plus decades.

Namely the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) – the adoption of a 20-year housing and industrial land use development plan for Greater Manchester.

The revised proposals have been some time coming, but I understand that they will now be available for so called public consultation in October.

I also understand that a decision has recently been made by the ten Labour Council leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester who have decided that the ultimate decision to adopt, or not to adopt the final plans, will rest solely with them.

There will be NO requirement to bring the plan to a full meeting of each of the ten Councils for debate and a full vote on formal adoption by all councillors.

This is a complete reversal of democracy.

Members will recall that many of our residents were outraged when the initial plans to build thousands of new homes on Green Belt land in Shaw, Crompton, Saddleworth, Royton and Chadderton were first unveiled.

Liberal Democrat colleagues, I and members from the seats opposite, joined them in opposing the proposals when responding to the consultation or attending demonstrations in Tandle Hill Country Park and in Albert Square.

Mr Mayor, public sentiment is still the same across Greater Manchester – NO to building new homes on our Green Belt and YES to local Councillors as the people’s representatives ultimately making the decision where new homes are built.

Ward members are elected to lead, but also to represent the constituents and the communities we serve.  How can we do this if we are denied the final vote on the plan?

If we get this wrong, it will represent a disaster for our communities and for our Green Belt.  Yet the ten Labour Council Leaders and GM Mayor are saying ‘leave it to us, we know what is best for you’.

It is simply not right that such an important decision can be taken by so few people.

It is certainly not what I and many others envisaged but perhaps it is a sign of things to come with so called devolution to Greater Manchester.

Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader tonight, whether despite this backroom deal, he will still be doing the honourable thing by bringing the final plan back to a meeting of the full Council for debate and adoption.

Q2 Leader Question – Call for Conductors on Metrolink Trams

 Mr Mayor, my second question raises another issue that concerns a great many residents in our Borough, their safety when they use Metrolink.

Regrettably we have seen many disturbing instances of crime and anti-social behaviour on the Rochdale – Oldham line, several very violent over recent months and unfortunately the line has the highest number of incidents across the Network.

I welcome the recent actions of Metrolink staff, Police and our Council’s Youth Engagement Officers in tackling this blight, and the news that thirteen offenders have been arrested during the first two weeks of this operation is good news.

The operation may be called Infinity, but the resources are not and it will at some point come to an end.

Some time ago Oldham Liberal Democrats revealed shocking figures that one in eight Metrolink passengers are fare-dodgers, or to put it another way 12% of all journeys are not paid for.

There are 40 million tram journeys a year so fare-dodging is estimated to cost Metrolink about £9 million in lost revenue.

Oldham Liberal Democrats have also flatly opposed Labour plans (supported by the Conservatives) to put up fares for honest Metrolink passengers by an inflation-busting 19% by 2020 when one in eight passengers travel free.

Rather than hammering the honest passenger, transport bosses need to focus on tackling fare evasion.  12% non-payment is a disgrace.

Conductors on trams would help tackle this issue and should pay for its self, whilst making the honest traveling public feel safe.  It would also drive the fair dodgers and those causing anti-social behaviour off the trams.

Other tram services in the UK have on-board staff on every service, such as the Sheffield Super Tram and on the Wolverhampton – Birmingham line.

Not only does a conductor provide passengers with reassurance that there is always someone at hand should they need assistance in an emergency, but that person can also give passengers advice about services, stops and fares and help them to board and alight.

So for my second question tonight, Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader if he would be willing to join me in calling upon Metrolink operators to introduce conductors on a trial basis on the Rochdale – Oldham line?

We can improve safety, tackle fare evasion and increase revenue for Metrolink – a triple win – and I do not know why we are not doing it already.

Eastway, Shaw – proposed passenger shelter now gets thumbs up!

As people may be aware the battle for a bus shelter on Eastway has been ongoing for some time now.

The requested was refused due to the narrow width of the pavement in this area.

See: 

Request for bus shelters on Eastway, Shaw – refused

However I am now very pleased to report that following negotiations with ASDA for the use of some of their land (Big thanks to ASDA) the shelter can now be accommodated .  Also a passenger count has been undertaken and the number of passengers boarding has met TfGM minimum criteria for a shelter.

The next step in the process is that the proposals are presented to TfGM’s Bus Networks and TfGM Services Committee in October for approval.

Hopefully works can start soon after that.

Petrol filling station – for Asda Supermarket, Greenfield Lane, Shaw, – appeal again refusal

FULL DETAILS ARE IN THE LINK BELOW ALONG WITH HOW PEOPLE CAN SUBMIT THEIR VIEWS ON THIS MATTER AND WHERE AND WHEN THE APPEAL WILL BE HELD, WHICH IS A PUBLIC MEETING ANYBODY CAN ATTEND.

ASDA planning appeal details

Shaw and Crompton Liberal Democrat Councillors are disappointed that Asda have proceeded to appeal their plans for a petrol filling station.

This is despite the recommendation of Council Highways Officers that this development is unsafe, and the strong objections of local residents in relation to traffic congestion as well as the concerns of residents living directly opposite the proposed site who’s right to a peaceful life will undoubtedly be disrupted by a petrol station literally on the doorstep of the terraced houses.

Liberal Democrats call for Council Action to Tackle HGV Gridlock

At the next full meeting of Oldham Council (Wednesday 12 September) Liberal Democrat Councillors Derek Heffernan and Garth Harkness will propose and second a Motion asking for action to tackle the traffic chaos caused by HGVs using inappropriate roads in the Borough’s smaller villages and rural areas.

Both Councillors witnessed this earlier this year when on April 26 in their own ward of Saddleworth North a large articulated lorry blocked the junction of Grains Road and King Street in Delph for four hours.

Commenting, Councillor Heffernan said: “Garth and I saw then the chaos that a HGV driver can cause in a village when trying to navigate a tight road junction in a small village. These situations usually occur when drivers ignore displayed weight or width restrictions or use satnavs designed for cars instead of those specifically designed for HGVs and large vehicles. We want the Government to change the law so that these vehicles have to be equipped with the appropriate commercial version. They may cost a little more, but they will help reduce the price paid in inconvenience by local residents, such as our constituents in Delph, and other road users.”

The two Councillors also want the Council to support a call by the Local Government Association that Government give local authorities new powers to enforce traffic restrictions against HGVs.

Councillor Heffernan added: “The Police are often too overstretched to enforce these regulations. If the Government enacted Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004, this would grant Councils the necessary powers to carry out enforcement action.”

Finally, the motion calls on the Council to co-operate with the two Parish Councils, with local residents’ associations and the Police to introduce Lorry Watch schemes in areas of the borough where HGV holdups may happen.

Councillor Heffernan concluded: “Lorry Watch scheme rely on local residents to record vehicles flouting weight and width restrictions and report them. Like Home Watch, this is about empowering local residents to take positive action to help keep their villages and rural areas HGV free. If we all do our bit, we can keep the traffic flowing.”

Council 12 Sept 2018 – Notice of Opposition Business

Motion 1 – Keeping Our Villages and Rural Areas HGV Free

Council notes that:

  • HGVs and large vehicles can bring small villages and rural areas to a standstill when these vehicles are too large to navigate smaller roads.
  • This has happened most recently on April 26 in Delph when a large articulated lorry blocked the junction of Grains Road and King Street bringing chaos to the village for four hours.
  • These situations often occur because drivers of these vehicles chose to ignore displayed weight or width restrictions or fail to use a satnav system specifically designed for lorries.
  • The Police do not always have the resources to enforce these restrictions, yet Councils outside London and Wales are currently prevented from doing so because the Government has failed to bring Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 into force for Councils in the rest of England.
  • Lorry satnavs are like normal car satnavs, but they include bridge heights, narrow roads, and roads unsuitable for trucks. In addition, they allow the driver to enter the lorry’s dimensions – height, width, weight and load – so they are only guided along suitable roads. Their cost is slightly more than that of a standard car sat-nav.

Council further notes that, in several parts of England, Lorry Watch schemes have been established. These are run by local residents who record instances of vehicles flouting weight and width restrictions, and report them to a Parish Council Coordinator, the Police or their Council Trading Standards Department.

This Council:

  • Supports the position of the cross-party Local Government Association that the Government should bring Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 into force for all relevant English councils with immediate effect and legislate so all HGVs and large vehicles are required to install suitable satnavs designed for lorries and large vehicles.
  • Believes that establishing Lorry Watch Schemes in various parts of the Borough is worthy of consideration.

Council resolves to:

  • Ask the Chief Executive to write to the Secretary of State for Transport requesting the Government bring Part 6 of the 2004 Traffic Management Act into force and legislate to make the use of suitable satnavs for HGVs and other large vehicles mandatory.
  • Ask the Chief Executive to seek the support of our three local MPs and the Mayor of Greater Manchester for this position.
  • Ask the Overview and Scrutiny Board to examine the merits and practicalities of establishing a Lorry Watch scheme in various parts of the Borough, in conjunction with the District Executives, the Parish Councils, residents’ associations, and the Police.

Liberal Democrat Leader seeks renewed action on danger roads

The Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Oldham Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has recently written to the Deputy Leader of Oldham Council, with responsibility for highways, Councillor Arooj Shah, asking for a review of the circumstances in which highways are repaired when they become damaged and potentially hazardous.

Councillor Sykes explained why he feels a review, and more prompt action on repairing worn road surfaces is needed:

“Government guidance issued to all local authorities in November 2016 states that Councils must ‘investigate’ instances where road surfaces have been eroded by at least 40mm, but there is no legal requirement placed upon Councils even then to repair them promptly.  In Oldham, the policy is at least to consider potholes deeper than 40mm to be eligible for repair, but one issue is that many roads in my own district of Shaw and Crompton do not even have a top surface that is 40mm thick; they can be worn away to the cobbles and present a real danger to cyclists and motorists, but as the ‘threshold’ can never be reached no action is taken.  This cannot be fair or right.”

By way of constant, the threshold for the repair of pavements is lower at 25mm.

Councillor Sykes has asked for a Council review of the road erosion threshold to ensure that any road surface that becomes hazardous is repaired.  He added:  “I fully appreciate roads will still have to be prioritised and not all will be able to be repaired with the resources the Council has, but we should look to address the danger that any worn road surface represents to the public, and not simply operate to some arbitrary ‘threshold’.”

Councillor Sykes’s letter to Councillor Shah reads (no reply or acknowledgement as of today):

From: Howard Sykes
Sent: 14 August 2018 14:58
To: Cllr A Shah <Arooj.Shah@oldham.gov.uk>
Cc: Howard Sykes <howard.sykes@oldham.gov.uk>
Subject: Road surface repairs

Dear Councillor Shah,

I am writing to you to request that you review the current threshold applicable to the repair of road and footway surfaces in the Borough.

At present, the road surface has to be eroded by at least 40mm to become eligible for repair.

In my district of Shaw and Crompton, this has meant that many roads have remained unrepaired, presenting a constant hazard to drivers and cyclists, as erosion has not reached the threshold but the road surface has become pot-holed and dangerous.  By way of constant, the threshold for the repair of pavements is lower at 25mm.

I fully appreciate roads will still have to be prioritised and not all will be able to be repaired with the resources the council has.  Many roads have a top course that is less than 40mm so it can be totally warn away and down to the cobbles in some cases.  This cannot be fair or right.

I would like you to undertake a review of the road erosion threshold in this Borough to ensure that action is promptly triggered whenever any road surface becomes hazardous.

I look forward to your response with interest.

Best wishes.

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE

Pencil Brook Culvert Repairs – construction starts Sept 18 for 12 weeks – update

Update of News Letter issued in July 2018

Since the issue of the newsletter last month and the Drop-in session on the 25th July, we have carried out another CCTV inspection of the culvert running through the Valley Rise wooded area and into Lower Fields Rise.  This has revealed that since the last CCTV inspection in 2015, the culvert has significantly deteriorated in two sections within the wooded area.

We had hoped that the culvert could be repaired using a cured in place lining technique.  This involves inserting a resin impregnated sock it the pipe and curing it with ultraviolet light.  Unfortunately two sections of the pipe of over 100 metres in length are in such poor condition now that they cannot be repaired in this manner.  Indeed the condition of the pipe in the worst area is so bad that collapse could be imminent.  It will be necessary to dig down and replace sections of the pipe. The pipe is 6 metres deep and this is a difficult task which will require much heavier plant and equipment.  It will also be necessary to stockpile arisings to backfill the trench.

Earlier this year we visited site with Nik Anderson, the Oldham Council, Senior Arboricultural and Countryside Officer, who has responsibility for managing the woods.  We reviewed the tree removal and pruning works that would be necessary to complete our works.  At this stage we had assumed that some excavation to replace pipes would be necessary.  The extent of the pipe replacement will now be greater than originally envisaged and the plant and equipment needed for the work will be bigger and heavier.  We will revisit site with Nik Anderson to review the clearance work that is required, and the reinstatement and replanting that will be needed.

Due to the nature of the heavy plant required and the increased scope of work, for safety reasons it will necessary to close the wooded area to pedestrian access for the duration of our work.  We would expect that this would be for up to 12 weeks in duration.

We apologise for the inconvenience this work will cause and would assure you that we will reopen the woods as quickly as possible. It is vital that this works takes place quickly as the consequence could be collapse of the pipe which would result in serious local flooding. For your information photographs of the pipe condition from the CCTV survey have been included on the rear of this newsletter.

 Timescales
•           Commence construction works early September 2018
•           Complete construction works in woods November 2018